Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Well... this has been my life for the past two days. Inventory. They just remodeled my classroom within the last year, so the lab benches are some really beautiful stone material, and they've got a fume hood, gas hookups for the bunson burners, new paint, tile, cabinets and stools. It's really an excellent space! The back room (the doorway of which I am eclipsing in the picture) was full of like... 50 years worth of decaying, scattered lab equipment, chemicals, specimens, etc... so I have made it priority number one to get things organized. I am also interested to know what sorts of resources I have at hand, so that my lesson plans can build out of that knowledge in the next week or so as I develop them more fully.

Today was the first all-teacher workday so I have been meeting lots of new faces. It's been really fun seeing the diverse walks of life represented just on staff. There are representatives from all over the States and Paraguay. The Mid. Grades science teacher is from England and has an awesome accent. I really enjoy them so far, and they seem to enjoy each other as well. This is a plus. I really like to feel that community forming. I know it's early, but it's encouraging to see.

They tell me the kids are generally very well-behaved and hard working, but everyone has a story or two to tell who has been here for any length of time. Many are Asian, specifically Korean and Chinese. They say one of the main problems they have generally is cheating, but especially among this group. I am told it is a cultural difference... that the Asian student's see it more as helping your friends, supporting each other, rather than being dishonest. Hmm...

The alcohol policy and dress codes here are pretty strict. The kids are used to it by now, I guess. It sure will be different from BCS, that's for sure. We are supposed to contact parents, not all of which speak English. That'll be new too. My spanish is improving, but not nearly that good yet. Hmm... generally, I feel incredibly well cared for in the Master's hand, and am still in awe of the perfection of His provision for me thus far in the trip. Continue to pray this week as I plan my lessons for the first few weeks, and finish organizing things in the room. Organization is not my strong suit, but it is a Focus Correction Area for me these first few months.

Overall, I am anticipating. I've got some good resources to work with, and some intriguing ideas to try out, but I am a first year teacher, and am not exempt from the numerous faux pa's that we newbies inevitably seem to make. I love you guys. Skype me!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

First Impressions

Today I got a bus tour around town. At first I was a little discouraged, drawn inside myself thinking how huge this city was, and wondering if I would ever be able to really just go out and make it on my own... meeting all the new people that there were to meet and making good impressions... knowing the map well enough to keep track of all the buslines... learning the culture well enough to not offend people unwittingly... having the confidence to speak with native speakers... the people I want to know the most here, but the people I feel the least default connection to. I absolutely have enjoyed the Americans here, and will cherish and need them to work here well, but I share more with them already, and I know that the greatest growth for me will probably come through relationships that cross cultural boundaries. Pray for these relationships. I played soccer with a group yesterday and had a blast, though my soccer skills are limited. I would love to try to speak more with those guys, but it's so much easier not to. This evening I was with Livio and Dan B. (another teacher here) grilling ribs and sausage and eating a cheese-bread-like food called "chipa." What a time. Tomorrow I go to a Mennonite Church here in town, and then play tennis with Dan. Also pray that God would give me insight, as I am finishing up some work for school... There have been a million things rolling around in my head, some things I was able to jot down in pictures in the airport, but the stage of articulating those pictures into words, and revising-fine tuning the paper is tedious, and requires my honest focus. I don't want to just blow steam either... and I know it can be easy to do. Pray that I can apply my mind honorably to this. I want to be done... but I'd rather be well done.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Whelp. You guessed it. I am here at last! Wow... I cannot begin to describe in any series of words what this feels like. It's like Costa Rica, Japan, and China, only more real... more exciting... more scary. The had of the Lord continues to amaze me in the perfection of his provision. Not only did my travel experience go off without a hitch, I met SO many people along the way that were absolutely a blessing to me. Thanks Rhonda for encouraging me to risk talking to strangers before my college experience. Anyway.... in DC, I met a girl flying to Argentina with no plans beyond finding some place to teach English and then living down there for 3 months. I was emboldened. On the plane I sat beside another college student on her way to Buenos Aires for a business internship. She had previously been in Australia doing similar work. She slept the whole flight. She was pretty boring. In Argentina, I shared many hours of my layover with a middle-aged woman from Asuncion who had been visiting family in the states. We practice language. She was wonderfully kind and friendly, inviting me to visit her and her family (she has a son my age). She gave me her name and number and told me to leave a message with her housekeeper if she wasn' t in. She said her driver could pick me up. I think she had some money. Later in my layover, I met a student from Asuncion who had atteneded ACA's rival english-speaking school. He told me different organizations I could visit to learn more about the region's biology. He also said to look him up after he returns from the states (after 15 day vacation) and gave me his contact info. On the plane to Asuncion, I met an engineer from outside the city who told me about Guarani. In the airport, going through customs, I met a PhD candidate from MIT who was doing social science research in Paraguay regarding implementation of Sustainable Agriculture methods. I told him what I was doing, and mentioned that I might like him to come and talk to our class at sometime. He gave me his card.
I also read a reflective book by Donald Miller about his experiences transitioning into life beyond school and some of his preconcieved notions, and how God met him along the way. So... as you can see... it's been a really busy 30 hours of travel. When not sleeping with folded knees and neck twisted at 90 degrees, I was watching God provide and listening to Him teach. I'm REALLY tired. But I have SO much to be thankful for right now! Thanks for those who have been praying for me. I will update you with more soon!

Monday, July 21, 2008

No promises regarding the coherence of this post. I am blissfully exhausted at the end of yet another amazing, very full day. I have been enjoying immensely the blessings of family in this new setting, and challeneged by how different that setting is from my usual element. I am awed by the perfection of the Lord's provision for me here, as Baltimore has provided an excellent middle-step for me on my way to PY. The city environment here was at first intimidating and scary, but marauding about with Kerwin, Brian, and Rhonda has given me great courage in striking out on my own.
Icing on the cake: Four friends from Equador visited R&K a few days ago, three of which spoke essentially no english. We spent a fantastic evening together, eating, laughing, playing music and, for a time, moving me past my inhibitions towards practicing my language skills with native speakers. It was a perfect crash course, an amazing primer, and ultimately left me thrilled about the opportunity to learn and use the Spanish language with increasing fluency.
Thankfully, details have continued to fall into place. I pray God will continue to provide and lead, as there are many more details yet to manage.
Day after tomorrow, I fly.

Friday, July 11, 2008


On any given day in the natural world... things are changing.

I can watch a rabbit hop across my path, grass be blown by the wind. Over the course of a day, see a flower bloom. Over the course of weeks, plants grow. Over the course of months fruits flower, produce, drop. Over the course of years, succession occurs, populations dynamically ebb and flow. Trees become large and stately. Windfalls rot and disappear. Over the course of centuries, species invade, choke others out, erosion shapes the land. On a astronomical time frame, stars are born, burn out and die. Yet... if lay before our eyes as time lapse footage... we could see the change occurring as motion. We are used to understanding change as measured between phenomena. I am an inch taller than last year when marked against the wall in Grandpa's garage. Chestnut trees are gone, whereas 500 years ago they were dominant in the American forest. If Betelgeuse goes supernova in our lifetime, it'll be one of the most phenomenal astronomical events in recorded history. In this very moment, however, if I were to go outside and take a snapshot, I have not captured a still moment in time, I have taken a frame... a moment when each of those natural time lapse films crosses.... or a cross section of all playing side-by side. The rabbit caught mid-jump is no more or less in a state of motion than the grass over which it jumps... even though it's change relative to the march of time may be quicker. I am pausing all change simultaneously in that image. Photos are odd things.

Really... our lives are every bit the same vibrant enigmas. In this moment, I am not an identity as much as a cross section of a thousand processes. My age, position, emotional climate, faith, knowledge, attitudes, skin color, wardrobe, family interactions, skills, pets, posessions, etc, etc, are continually changing around and through me. And as they effect me, they (especially the human element) is changing in the same way that I am. So... no wonder our identities are such difficult things to grasp in hand. The only lasting stability our identities may have is from the love of One outside the films... the filmmaker if you will... who alone knows every frame because we were His idea in the first place. And yet, somehow He knew the beauty of fragility... the definitive need for a story to have both a "once upon a time" and a "the end."

It's a wonderfully fascinating thing to consider... and gives breathtaking pause... when we realize that each of our glowing, pulsating, flowing, experiencing, changing existances are allowed to touch, for only a moment, another of similar nature. Then, when all that exorbitant complexity bound in each one is tied to a thousand or more inputs and outputs of similar complexity... it forms a net that incorporates every human soul on the face of the planet in some degree, and makes knowing even a single one of us in terms of the rest... impossible... ludicrous... and the most captivatingly beautiful endeavor we have been given.

So, to those of you who have seen many snapshots of my life, and have allowed me the privelege of sharing some of yours... no words can express. You have made my life beautiful and rich. I may not pick up new snaphots of you for a time... to the degree that we did while together... but let's not lay them aside... they do not become obsolete. We do not become different creatures over time... we just play different parts of the same film. No one says to only watch the end of a movie. Nor do old memories lose their value or definition in time. Thanks for knowing me, and letting me know you. I love you all very much.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Whelp, I've got a ticket folks.

After some digging, I found a flight out of Dulles with a single stop in Argentina for $820 (after taxes) I'll be flying out on the 24th of July.

Plans are to catch a ride with Brian up to visit Rhonda and Kerwin in Baltimore on the 17th, and spend the last week up there with them.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Like drifting towards the roar...

You are reading this. I am glad. That's a good start! I've been considering how best to remedy my tendency to neglect the thoughtful personal e-mails that make any valued ones distance more bearable. As I cherish each of you deeply, I want to make sure to keep you updated on what goes on in my life in the next few months/years. This little blog may help with that. Let me make one thing clear from the beginning though. I do NOT want this to replace any personal contact you would otherwise have with me in Paraguay. Think of it as... the minimal line of communication that keeps us close enough to allow for ongoing dialogue. Like... team climbing... sort-of... or... those ropes with handles that kindergardeners use of field trips to the zoo. This is the first strand of that rope. As it is augmented with news of my adventures and adjustments in Asuncion and beyond, I ask that you would grip it between praying hands, and ask that our Father would lead me and train me through this experience. Word out of the underground church in China is that they ask for us to pray for the strengthening of their backs rather than the lightening of their load. I would be amiss to ask for less, if God is as all evidence and whole thought leads me to suspect. I choose to serve. I ask to grow, in efficacy, wisdom, finesse, and spiritual, mental, etc. fitness. He has been my best teacher thus far. I don't want to nap in class.... don't want to miss a thing... for negligence, for fear, for fatigue... for anything. Pray for me along these lines. Pray that he would grace me with situations and lessons to shape me according to His future plans. I have rarely if ever justified His investment in me... which means His heart for teaching is exactly what I desperately want to mirror by my own... a tall order, and a long bloody task. So you see why I need him so much.

So... status check:

At this point little packing is underway beyond organizing things in my head a bit. I've pulled the books I want to take with me... have ordered some wardrobe and a camera... and insodoing realized how desperately my conscience needs me to start bringing in some cashflow rather than living on loans and odd jobs. Ummm.... Paraguayan VISA came through in half the time I expected, despite some honestly stated, but glaring conflicts with the application criteria. (One of the criteria for getting the VISA was that you not apply for residency once there... an intention I directly stated) Still some paperwork to do though for the residency.

I am nearly reading to pace with my Focus on the Family Institute days. Like... 30-60 pages a day or more if I can swing it. It feels awesome. You should all try it sometime. Trying to practice some Spanish by reading Bolivian folk tales from one of Dad's old books and looking up every other word. Good excercise though. I know know that 'lagarto' means a lizard... or a slink-y man.

It doesn't quite feel real yet that I will be teaching in about a month, and in Paraguay in less than 3 weeks. Nevertheless... the water I float in is picking up speed, so I know something big and exciting is just downstream... and sweeping me toward it. I tuck my arms inside my little barrel. The fear's there. Come on... let's go.